Lewis Hamilton has warned rival Max Verstappen that he feels he has hit his peak, after he laid down the gauntlet in what could be an epic title battle with victory in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Hamilton and Verstappen battled right to the line after the Red Bull driver had taken the lead in the closing laps only to have to relinquish the place to his Mercedes rival because he overtook off the track limits.
Hamilton held on to the finish and said: “What a difficult race that was. Max was all over me right at the end, but I just about managed to hold him off. It was one of the hardest races I have had in a while.
“Stopping early we knew was going to be difficult but we had to cover Max. They’ve had an amazing performance all weekend so it was going to take something pretty special.
“We stopped for that last stint and trying to find the right balance between pushing too much and not having enough tyres at the end of the race was difficult.“
It was a sensational overturn by the reigning champions, after Verstappen had topped every time sheet of the weekend, secured pole and led until the first set of tyre stops.
Asked if he is looking forward to the season he added: “I definitely am. Each year they’re talking about when you think you’ve hit your peak.
“I think timing is everything, and it is going to take everything and more for us to put in performances like this, but we love the challenge, I love the challenge, I still love what I do.
“It was so hard in the car today, but what a great event and this is a really good start for us. Through testing we thought we were going to be six-eighth tenths behind, so the work that has gone on this week has been spectacular.“
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